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Apple announced its pricing for the UK version of the iPad on Friday, and immediately came under attack from ‘rip-off Britain’ complainants, who claim the prices are unfairly high compared with those US gadget lovers are currently enjoying. At £429 ($638) versus $499 (£335), you could say that they’re justified in their ire. But one user was swiftly slapped down by Steve Jobs, who told one disgruntled customer to: “Please educate yourself.” Jobs pointed out that sales tax is not included in any US pricing, while VAT is included on these shores. Taking that 17.5 per cent add-on into account, the iPad actually costs £365 before tax. But there’s still the question of why we’re paying an extra £30 basic for the cheapest 16GB model.

Jobs’ somewhat blunt reply aside, he does have a point. And punters who assumed that Apple would look to offer parity were always going to be disappointed. Apple has a track record of beefing up its prices outside the US, actually hiking the price of the basic MacBook here in the UK while it slashed it in the US a few years back. That’s not to say, however, that this is in any way fair.

So is the basic model worth it? That nagging £30 difference aside, you are getting a seriously sleek piece of kit. The iPad is great, and if you can live with the locked-down system and lack of multi-tasking (for now), then it’s certainly worth plumping for. But, when it comes to more expensive models, especially the 3G versions, it does become harder to justify busting out your credit card.

iPad deal

The top-end 3G iPad costs a frankly insane £699 ($1,039). That compares to $829, which makes it more than $200 more expensive here in the UK before tax considerations. And that’s before you’ve landed yourself a deal to access 3G networks. Orange has outlined its plans, with iPad Daily, Weekly and Monthly offerings. The daily deal is £2 for 200MB, Weekly £7.50 for 1GB and the Monthly is split into two packages: one £15 for 3GB and another at £25 for 10GB. All but the heftiest of web users will be happy with the £15 deal. But over a year, that means the iPad will cost £879 over twelve months. Of course, you can always load up on the cheaper 3G packages, at £529 for the 16GB 3G and £599 for the 32GB.

Ultimately, the 3G deal from Orange is actually pretty sound, even though the top-end £25 ($37) is heftier than the $29 monthly offering from AT&T across the pond. That comes as no surprise. But you’re going to need some serious cash to get on board with the 3G iPad.

Is Apple ripping us off? Perhaps. Is the basic iPad worth it once you’ve worked out the tax differences? Absolutely. But if you want a 3G iPad, it really might be worth holding out to see what Vodafone and O2 have to offer, as well as seeing if Apple can come up with the goods and deliver a cheaper product within a year. Early adopters will love it, but if you want a taster, that £429 model is where it’s at, even if £399 would have been a more realistic and friendly price.

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